Importing from Papers 3

I am one of many Papers 3 users who are extremely disappointed with the move from Papers 3 to Readcube Papers. A definite big step backwards in terms of functionality, with Papers 3 having been abandoned and no longer working with the latest OSX.

I am keen to import my items from Papers 3 to DT. When I say import, I mean the PDFs themselves though also ideally the metadata, or at least some of it (title, subtitle, author, journal and publication year being the main ones).

Is there any guidance or method of importing from Papers 3?

You’ve already found my " Papers to DEVONthink" script:

If this script doesn’t work anymore, I could look into updating it (and, as time allows, I may even be able to fine-tune it to your needs). Which macOS & DT versions are you using? And do you actually have any PDF annotations stored in Papers 3, or is it mostly PDFs & publication metadata?

If you also have Bookends (which can integrate with DT e.g. via a special template or via scripting), you may also want to look at my “Papers to Bookends” script. This script exports all publications selected in your Papers 3 library to Bookends (see the script’s Readme on how to facilitate the import of PDF annotations).

Btw, this related thread over at the “Mac Power Users” forums may also be of interest (in part, it also covers migration to DT):

Thank you for your kind offer. I have the latest macOS (Monterey 12.0.1) and DT (3.8, will probably buy the Pro version).

In Papers 3 I have the actual PDFs along with some tags (I think they are called keywords in Papers 3) and metadata. The metadata tends to include Title, Subtitle, Authors, Journal, Abstract, Publisher and Published (publication date). Some have a general note, though porting those is not essential.

Thanks for the additional info. So you don‘t have any PDF annotations (individual PDF notes and highlights) stored within Papers? In that case, my “Papers to DEVONthink” (at least in its current form) is probably less helpful as it focusses on export of the PDF annotations stored in Papers.

I‘ll try to look into a script variant that would focus on transferring just the PDFs and its main publication metadata.

Thank you, that would be very helpful. I have 1051 items in Papers 3, so automating the process would save me a lot of time.

I do have a small amount of individual PDF notes and highlights, though I would see porting those as secondary to the PDFs and metadata as mentioned above.

If it’s any help, I have set up a number of custom metadata fields in DT to mirror the metadata fields mentioned above. Would the metadata get transferred to these custom fields, or are you envisaging another approach?

What are the exact names of these metadata fields?

I don’t have DT3 but just DT2. However, I could try to develop the script against the DT3 demo version (not sure if that’s possible, though).

Alternatively, the metadata could be stored in a way that’s compatible with DT2, e.g. in the PDF’s comment field, or (Zettelkasten-style) as dedicated (Markdown or rich text) notes containing the publication metadata plus the formatted citation/reference string as well as a link to the corresponding source PDF. These notes (or their comment field) could even contain matching BibTeX entries.

That said, it doesn’t have to be either/or: In case of DT3, the publication notes could also feature your custom metadata fields.


The custom metadata fields I have created in DT are:

Title; Subtitle; Type; Topic; Journal; Authors; Editors; Publisher; Publication Date; Abstract

Topic in DT links to keyword/tag in Papers 3.

Is this looking doable at all? Otherwise I’l try and drag them across manually.

Sorry for the late reply, I only saw this now.

It should be doable, but will be some good amount of work and I unfortunately haven‘t yet found time to look into it.

No worries, I will at importing them manually meantime; might be able to find some automation to speed certain aspects up!